With a collection of huge competitions this weekend, the NCAA leaderboard is slated for a major shuffle. Only a month separates us from the NCAA Indoor Championships which means many women will be looking to run a national qualifying mark - and the Husky Classic is just the place to do it. The meet will feature many familiar faces to the Dempsey this season as well as some new ones from around the country.
Below we take a look at who to watch this weekend...
Of all the events at Husky, the 3000 is the marquee race. The race features a crazy amount of All-Americans and should produce multiple NCAA qualifiers. Headlining the field is 2018 runner-up Allie Ostrander of Boise State. The junior is making her season debut in the event after already running an NCAA qualifier in the 5000 meters. She has run once at Dempsey this season, posting a 4:35 mile after anchoring the Boise State DMR the night before. She enters this race as the favorite, but will face strong competition from a number of other women.
Among those looking to take down Ostrander is someone who has done it once already this season. Ednah Kurgat is making her 2019 indoor debut after posting an NCAA leading 5k back in December. Kurgat struggled during the cross country season compared to her 2017 campaign, but appears to be back and better than ever for indoors. While her personal best of 8:57 is slightly slower than Ostrander’s 8:54, Kurgat will certainly be mixing it up at the front. The distance favors Ostrander’s speed over Kurgat’s range, but with her 5k performance she appears ready to lower her personal best this weekend.
It would not be a race at Dempsey if it didn’t feature at least one Oregon star...enter Jessica Hull. The defending 1500 meter national champion is coming off of her best cross country season ever and blitzed a 4:31 mile at Arkansas a couple weeks back. She has the finishing speed to match anyone in the field and her personal best of 8:58 puts her right up with the best in this group. Expect Hull to shadow the leaders for much of the race and try to make a move in the later stages.
Other names to watch in the field include Lauren Gregory of Arkansas, Nicole Hutchinson of Villanova, Molly Sughroue of Oklahoma State and Katie Rainsberger of Washington.
The 5000 meter features arguably just as much talent and will be a great chance for some of the top names to chase the qualifying times that were run at the BU Season Opener.
Headlining the field is Makena Morley of Colorado, the 8th place finisher from NCAA XC, making her indoor season debut at the distance. Currently, she owns a personal best of 15:40 and has a good chance to better that mark with the competition in the field. She is also fresh off her first indoor meet this year where she ran a 9:20 for 3000 meters at 5300 feet of altitude. While Morley tends to favor longer distances (11th in NCAA 10k) she will certainly be near the front of this one.
The hometown favorite Lilli Burdon will also be stepping up to the distance for the first time in her collegiate career. It’s somewhat surprising that the Washington star has never raced this event indoors given she was 3rd outdoors in 2018, but this weekend will be a good chance to see what she can do on the smaller oval. Burdon has been off to a slower start this indoor season, racing the DMR and mile at the UW Invitational. She clocked a 4:42 for the mile, seven seconds off her personal best of 4:35 despite a strong finish to her cross country season. After outdoors last spring, Burdon seems more comfortable in longer races and this weekend will be a chance to test that indoors.
Another big name making their indoor 5k debut is Weronika Pyzik of Oregon. Pyzik is coming off a 12th place finish in cross country and ran 9:28 over 3000 meters at Arkansas to open her indoor season. While she is generally considered a 10k runner outdoors, Pyzik owns a personal best of 15:59 over 5000 meters and will need to run substantially faster if she hopes to qualify for NCAA's this season. Right now, the cutoff time to make nationals sits at 15:58, but there will surely be plenty of women who run faster this weekend, including some in this race. Although Pyzik is better suited for the longer distances, she should be a dark horse to win this race if any of the top names falter.
There are plenty of other women who will be looking to run NCAA qualifiers as well, including Fiona O’Keefe of Stanford, Clare O’Brien of Boise State and Caroline Alcorta of Villanova. Any of these women have a realistic chance to win the race and if the pacing is right, we could see a strong contingent break the 16-minute barrier this weekend.
Despite not being known as a miler, one of the biggest names to watch in the mile will be Division 2 star Caroline Kurgat of Alaska Anchorage. Kurgat has been on fire this season, running NCAA Division II leading times of 9:07 for 3000 meters and 15:28 for 5000 meters. Her 15:28 broke the former Division 2 record by over 30 seconds and would put her among elite company in Division 1. Currently, Kurgat’s mile personal best is a modest 4:53, but her 1500 meters best of 4:21 indicates that she should be able to run much faster. Not only that, but she is having by far the best indoor campaign of her career and is positioned to absolutely demolish her personal best this weekend. While she likely won’t win given her preference to the longer distances, it would not be surprising if she managed to run something huge.
Molly Sughroue will be looking for a strong comeback after a rough performance in her last race at UW. She raced the leadoff leg of the NCAA leading Oklahoma State DMR, but Sughroue faded hard over the last 400 meters. She currently owns a personal best of 4:37 for the mile indoors and has the wheels to close with anyone in the field, indicated by her 2:07 best over 800 meters. She is also ranked 15th in the NCAA for the 3k, but will likely be pushed out of qualifying after the races this weekend. With two rough performances hanging over her head from her last trip to Dempsey, expect Sughroue to have some extra fire this weekend.
The collegiate favorite in the field looks to be Carina Viljoen of Arkansas, who is coming off a big performance at the Arkansas Invitational where she ran a personal best of 4:33 over the distance. Despite only running 4:47 to open her season, Viljoen has made huge strides in a matter of weeks and will be looking to carry that momentum into this weekend. While the heat sheets have yet to be released, the meet features a handful of professional women who could pull Viljoen closer to the 4:30 barrier if the pace is honest.
Outside of these three women, there are not a ton of huge names in the mile field. That said, keep an eye on Adva Cohen of New Mexico and Brie Oakley of California who will be making her 2018-19 debut after redshirting cross country.
Last, but certainly not least is the two-lap tango. The 800 meter features a few big names doubling back from the 3000, including Katie Rainsberger and Jessica Hull, but we will also see some fresh faces.
Stanford's Caitlin Collier opened her collegiate career with a 2:10 at the UW Invitational. The performance was nowhere near her personal best marks from high school, but now that she has had some time to adjust to the collegiate racing scene, the bar has been raised. Collier undoubtedly has the talent to run under 2:05 on a track like Dempsey, but with only one performance under her belt it is tough to guess what kind of shape she is in. This weekend will be a great chance for her to post a big mark with a field full of professionals.
Another woman looking to breakthrough this season is Kaylee Dodd of Oklahoma State. Dodd has only run 2:11 this year, well off her personal best of 2:04 indoors. Her biggest performance this season was running the 800 leg of the Oklahoma State DMR, but she will certainly be looking to run closer to her personal best this weekend. On paper, OSU has a chance to run a DMR national record based on the personal bests of the four members of the team. If that were to be a goal, the group would need Dodd to quickly find her form before NCAA's.